Upstander Connection

Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

Led by Local Holocaust Survivors, the Museum Community Mourns and Remembers Victims of the Shoah on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Sixty-nine years ago today—January 27, 1945—Soviet troops liberated the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau where more than one million Jews alone had been murdered.

In 2005, 60 years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the United Nations approved General Assembly Resolution 60-7, establishing January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day and urging every UN member nation to honor the memory of Holocaust victims and encouraging the development of programs about Holocaust history to prevent further acts of genocide.

More than 11 million people perished in the Holocaust—of which six million were Jews; victims included the Roma, Soviet civilians and prisoners of war, ethnic Poles, people with disabilities, homosexuals and political and religious opponents of the Nazis.

On Sunday, Dallas area Holocaust survivors, Museum members and guests marked the international day of remembrance through reflections and prayer during a special program at the Museum.

“As we gather today, as an interfaith community, we honor, remember and mourn the lives lost in the Holocaust,” said Mary Pat Higgins, Museum President and CEO. “As Professor Yehuda Bauer said in his address to the UN Assembly in 2006, ‘We are all one human race—interconnected and interdependent.’

“We can only imagine the beauty, brilliance and distinction that the victims of the Holocaust would have brought to our world. The capacity for evil that allowed their lives to be extinguished is inherent in each of us, and must be combated by each of us with the desire to do what is right and good.”

Rabbi Shawn Zell of Congregation Tiferet Israel of Dallas told the 85 people in attendance—including 10 local Survivors and a large contingent of visiting college students—that the total number of Jews affected by the Holocaust is closer to 30 million, factoring in the likely growth of families of murdered Jews.

“Each one of us, by virtue of being here today, share the heritage of the six million Jews not here with us today,” Rabbi Zell said. “Let’s continue to hold them in our hearts.”

Fr. Jonathan Austin of St. Jude (Catholic) Chapel in downtown Dallas urged those in attendance to embrace the full meaning of the word “tolerance.”

“Tolerance means a profound respect and love for the other person no matter the person’s nationality, language, religion or other background,” Fr. Austin said. “That’s why we must be vigilant in examining ourselves for places of darkness…Joy, love and peace are the weapons we have to collaborate against the darkness in the world today.”

Following the brief remarks by Mrs. Higgins, Rabbi Zell and Fr. Austin, the attendees, led by the local Survivors, moved next door to the Museum’s Memorial Room where Rabbi Zell said the Kaddish prayer and lit the Yarzeit candle in memory of Holocaust victims.

“We should not forgive ourselves if we ever forget,” Rabbi Zell said.

–Chris Kelley,  for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

For Kindertransport Families, an Inconceivable Choice

It’s an inhumane choice that no parent should ever have to face: leave a child with a complete stranger, so the child might have a chance to survive persecution and, ultimately, avoid being murdered—or keep the child and most assuredly risk his or her life.

But for tens of thousands of mostly Jewish families during World War II, this incomprehensible decision became one they were forced to make.

The Kindertransport was a British rescue operation that enabled 10,000 primarily Jewish children to escape the Nazis in the months leading up to the declaration of WW II. The initiative required a convergence of simultaneous efforts over a compressed time frame—speedy immigration policy creation, collaboration among diverse religious groups and, perhaps, most importantly, the bravery of individuals.

“A History of the Kindertransport” is the subject of the newest special exhibit at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.  Running through Feb. 28, the exhibit is free with paid admission. On Sunday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. at the Museum, Dallas resident Magie Furst, a Kindertransport refugee, will tell her first-hand story at a special program.

“What do you say to a child that you, a mother, are about to confide to a stranger—a child you most likely will never see again?” asked Dr. Charlotte Decoster, Education and Public Engagement Coordinator for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, at a special lecture on Jan. 16 entitled “The Last Kiss: Parents Saying ‘Goodbye’ During the Holocaust.”

For parents who applied to participate in the Kindertransport, the special immigration initiative was the only option for their children to escape persecution and almost certain death as Jewish families were rounded up and deported, ultimately, to death camps, said Dr. Decoster, an expert in the study of children hidden and rescued during the Holocaust.  In most cases, parents and their rescued children never saw one another again after the moment of separation, she said.

Through her research, Dr. Decoster, who is also an adjunct professor of history at the University of North Texas, where she received her Ph.D., discovered a painful process parents endured in separating from their children—from awareness of the option to save their children through coping with the aftermath of permanent separation from them.

At one deportation camp in southern France, where parents voluntarily turned 108 children over to Nazi resistance fighters who would see to the safety and security of the children, later research would reveal that 28 of the parents committed suicide.

“For the majority of parents who participated in the Kindertransport and similar child rescue efforts, they did what they thought was necessary—the hope of survival for their children and, by circumstance, their Jewish culture, heritage and religious practices,” Dr. Decoster said.

In most cases, rescued Jewish children were taken in by Christian families, including Catholics, and in some select cases Muslim families. While many of the children were allowed to practice Judaism, evidence reveals some efforts at converting the children to Christianity, Dr. Decoster said.

The Museum’s Kindertransport exhibit allows students to contemplate the event from the perspective of a child, offering them the opportunity to ask themselves the question—and leave behind their answers on a colored index card—“What treasured item would you bring?”

In the final analysis, the story of the Kindertransport, like many from the Holocaust, reflects themes rooted in the depravity of humanity and in its nobility, Dr. Decoster said. In the face of evil behavior that surely would have seen children murdered otherwise, “We saw Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities make a decision to act and do something to ensure the survival of children.”

Presenting sponsors for the Kindertransport exhibit are Ann Donald Zetley and Florence and Howard Shapiro in loving memory of Martin Donald. Community Partners include Catholic Charities of Dallas and the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas.

Tickets to the Feb. 2 program featuring Margie Furst are $5 each. Register online at DallasHolocaustMuseum.org or RSVP to rsvp@dallasholocaustmuseum.org and pay at the door.

 –Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.

 

 

 

 

The Rise and Fall of the KKK: Special Museum Lecture Shocks, Enlightens Audience About the Klan’s Huge Influence in 1920s-era Dallas

In 1923, the State Fair of Texas held Ku Klux Klan Day.

In 1923, the State Fair of Texas held Ku Klux Klan Day.

It’s a statistic that a modern city would likely just as soon forget: In the mid-1920s, Dallas had the largest chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the U.S. with more than 13,000 members.

And, Texas had the largest population of KKK members—men and women—in the nation with more than 159,000 members.

These findings are among the research tidbits unearthed by Dr. Natalie Ring, Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD), who delivered a special lecture to a crowd of about 75 at the Museum on Dec. 12.

“Dallas’ KKK Chapter 66 was the largest chapter in the country, and it controlled city government, the courts, the law enforcement establishment and had strong influence among the clergy,” said Dr. Ring, who specializes in teaching U.S. Southern History.

From dues and fees, KKK Chapter 6 had an annual budget that is the equivalent to $1.3 million today, she said.

Dallas also had one of the largest chapters of Klan women, whose rallies drew huge audiences.

The first Ku Klux Klan flourished in the Southern United States in the late 1860s, then died out by the early 1870s, Dr. Ring said. Members adopted white costumes: robes, masks, and conical hats, designed to be outlandish and terrifying, and to hide their identities. The second KKK flourished nationwide in the early and mid-1920s, and adopted the same costumes and code words as the first Klan, while introducing cross burnings. The third KKK emerged after World War II and was associated with opposing the Civil Rights Movement and progress among minorities.

In the 1920s, the Klan sought to position itself as a law-abiding force for moral order that believed in good schools, clean politics, extreme Christian Protestantism and liberty. Above all, the Klan opposed immigration of just about any kind. Membership peaked in the mid-1920s with membership in the millions, Dr. Ring said.

In practice, the Klan was a vicious hate group, responsible for hundreds of lynchings nationwide. The Tuskegee Institute has recorded 3,446 blacks and 1,297 whites were lynched between 1882 and 1968.

One of the catalysts for the Klan of the 1920s was the 1915 lynching near Atlanta of Jewish businessman Leo Frank after the Georgia governor commuted his death sentence to life in prison. Frank had been convicted in 1913 and sentenced to death for the murder of a young white factory worker named Mary Phagan, in a trial marked by media frenzy. The Frank case is the subject of a special exhibit at the Museum through the end of the year, “Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited.”

However, in Dallas, as word spread about the KKK’s violence against not only people of color in the Trinity River bottoms near downtown Dallas, but Caucasians deemed to have moral failings, and the arrests of KKK members responsible for the violence, public support eroded for the Klan.

In addition, the election of anti-Klan Texas governor Miriam Amanda Wallace “Ma” Ferguson (June 13, 1875 – June 25, 1961) in 1925—and sexual scandal involving national Klan officers—deflated Klan influence and membership by the late 1920s.

The Klan saw resurgence during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Today, KKK members numbers range between 3,000 and 5,000, although that doesn’t include larger unknown numbers of white supremacist hate groups, Dr. Ring said.  She cited the work of the Anti Defamation League (www.adl.org ) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (www.splccenter.org) in raising awareness—and monitoring activities—of modern hate groups operating in the U.S.

Through deeper and better understanding of historical hate groups, we—as a civil society—can better prepare to combat hate, prejudice and indifference for the benefit of all humanity.

–Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

 

Lynching Revisited: How Could It Have Possibly Happened? Keynote Speaker Introduces Newest Exhibit, “Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited”

Leo Frank

Leo Frank

Leo Frank was the victim of a twisted mentality—a mob mentality rooted not only in anti-Semitism, but in a weakness in Georgia’s legal system, national economic and political turmoil and complex psychological factors involving gender, fear and stereotypes, says Professor William Carrigan.

Dr. Carrigan, a Professor of History at Rowan University in New Jersey and keynote speaker at the Museum’s opening reception for the newest exhibit, “Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited,” is an expert on lynching.

The Museum’s comprehensive exhibit on the Leo Frank Case tells how in 1913 a jury convicted Frank, a superintendent in a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia, of the murder of a child laborer who worked in the factory. Thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan’s body was found in the pencil factory cellar.

To the outrage of many, Governor John Slaton, who believed Frank was innocent, commuted the former superintendent’s sentence to life in prison on his last day in office in June 1915.

Two months later, a lynch mob of 25 armed men, which included a judge, a solicitor general of a local circuit, a state legislator and an ex-governor, kidnapped Frank from prison. The mob drove Frank 150 miles to Frey’s Gin, near Phagan’s home in Marietta, and hanged him. A large crowd gathered and took photographs.

“There are just evil, bad people in the world,” Dr. Carrigan told a crowd of 85 people who attended his presentation in the Museum’s Theater on Sept. 9. “But in nearly all cases, lynching involves a mob culture ruled by a mentality permitted by a weakness in the legal system and support…by local law enforcement.”

Dr. Carrigan said a lynching culture—a phenomena seen around the globe, historically—viewed the alleged perpetrator’s crime as so heinous that mob members were permitted to act as jury, judges and executioners, nearly always before a large, cheering crowd.

In the U.S., nearly 3,500 African Americans and 1,300 whites were lynched between 1882 and 1968, mostly from 1882 to 1920, according to figures collected by the Archives of the Tuskegee Institute. Other people of color were also lynched—Native Americans and Mexicans.

It wasn’t until the practice was confronted and condemned by good people and a concerted effort to prosecute violators initiated, that it ended, said Dr. Carrigan, whose many books on the subject include The Making of a Lynching Culture: Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836-1916 (University of Illinois Press, 2004).

The Frankcase was the ultimate catalyst for the fledgling Anti-Defamation League in 1913. The NAACP—formed in 1909—also contributed greatly to confronting ethnic and racial discrimination, and specifically lynching in early 20th century America, Dr. Carrigan said. Tragically however, the case helped ignite the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan.

“I would like to create our own ‘garden of the righteous’ to remember those who stood up against the lynch mobs,” Dr. Carrigan said. “We would be a better society to remember those folks rather than the mobsters.”

In 1986, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles pardoned Leo Frank, citing the state’s failure to protect the superintendent and bring his killers to justice as reasons for the pardoning.

The Museum presents this exhibit with the same intent as The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, which developed it. To revisit the case of Leo Frank and pose critical questions relating to individual and moral responsibility, respect for individual difference, the fragility of the democratic process, responsible citizenship, and the importance of community.

The exhibit presents the complicated and nuanced story of Mary Phagan’s murder, Leo Frank’s fate, and the historical, cultural, and political backdrop against which these events took place.

“Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited” will run through Dec. 31. The exhibit is generously supported by The Dallas Morning News and Brian Lidji, attorney and co-founder of the Lidji Dorey & Hooper law firm in Dallas.

Exhibit Dates: September 9, 2013 through December 31, 2013

Location: Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, 211 N. Record Street, Dallas, TX 75202 (In the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas at the southwest corner of Pacific and Record.)

Hours: Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.—5 p.m.

Community Partners: African-American Museum, Dallas; Anti-Defamation League; Black Classic Books, Baltimore, MD; Human Rights Initiative of North Texas; NAACP Dallas Chapter; SMU Embrey Human Rights Program; University of North Texas, Jewish Studies Program.

-Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

Podcast of Think (KERA-90.1 FM) with Dr. Carrigan

 

Delayed Justice: New Museum Special Exhibit Opening Sept. 1 Reexamines Historic Controversial Case

Leo Frank

Leo Frank

This exhibit, examines anti-Semitism in America. Through a large number of artifacts, it revisits the murder case and trial that ultimately captured the attention of the nation and led to the lynching of a Jewish man in Marietta, GA in 1915.

Exhibit Dates: September 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013

Location: Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, 211 N. Record Street, Dallas, TX 75202 (In the West End Historic District of downtown Dallas at the southwest corner of Pacific and Record.)

Hours: Monday-Friday 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

For Leo Frank, justice arrived too late to prevent his tragic and unlawful lynching. Today, however, his story finds a measure of redemption, serving as a powerful reminder of the evils of prejudice, hatred and indifference.

The Dallas Holocaust Museum will host its newest special exhibit, “Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited,” beginning Sept. 9. The exhibit will run through Tuesday, Dec. 31.

“Seeking Justice” will examine anti-Semitism in America. Through a large number of artifacts, the exhibit revisits the murder case and trial of Frank, which captured the attention of a nation a century ago.

In 1913, a jury convicted Frank, a Jewish superintendent in a pencil factory in Atlanta, Georgia, of the murder of a child laborer who worked in the factory. Thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan’s body was found in the pencil factory cellar.

Frank’s conviction came after a long trial. To the outrage of many, Governor John Slaton, who believed Frank was innocent, commuted the former superintendent’s sentence to life in prison on his last day in office in June 1915.

Two months later, a lynch mob of 25 armed men, including pillars of Georgia’s legal community, kidnapped Frank from prison. The mob drove Frank 150 miles to Frey’s Gin, near Phagan’s home in Marietta, and hanged him. A large crowd gathered and took photographs.

In 1986, the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles pardoned Frank, citing the state’s failure to protect the Jewish superintendent and bring his killers to justice as reasons for the pardoning.

The pardon was inspired in part by the 1982 testimony of Alonzo Mann, who as an office boy saw Jim Conley carrying Mary Phagan’s body to the basement on the day of her death. Conley had threatened to kill Mann if he said anything, and the boy’s mother advised him to keep silent.

The testimony gave confirmation to those who thought Frank was innocent. However, those who found Frank guilty still believed the testimony provided insufficient evidence to change their views.

The trial had long- and far-reaching impact. It struck fear in Jewish southerners, causing them to monitor their behavior in the region closely for the next 50 years—until the civil rights movement led to more significant changes.

The Leo Frank caused ripples well beyond Atlanta, GA. The case ignited the rebirth of the KKK and solidified the founding of the Anti-Defamation League.

We present this exhibit with the same intent as The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, which developed it.

To revisit the case of Leo Frank and pose critical questions relating to individual and moral responsibility, respect for individual difference, the fragility of the democratic process, responsible citizenship, and the importance of community.

The exhibit presents the complicated and nuanced story of Mary Phagan’s murder, Leo Frank’s fate, and the historical, cultural, and political backdrop against which these events took place.

U.S. Military Translator and Soldier Munir Captain: In Conflict-Ravaged Iraq, Peace is Possible Through Forgiveness and the Practice of Non-Violent Means

Munir Captain speaks at the Dallas Holocaust Museum on July 11.

Munir Captain speaks at the Dallas Holocaust Museum on July 11.

 

At age 15, when many American teens are busy playing team sports and taking driver’s education classes, Iraqi teenager Munir Captain joined the U.S. military as a translator. Later, he would become a special operations soldier in the U.S. Marines for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

But after surviving 33 assassination attempts, Munir sought and received political asylum in the U.S. in 2009 and eventually settled in Dallas, along with his parents and other relatives.

“I learned (in Iraq) that you cannot kill an idea with a bullet,’’ Munir told an audience of about 50 people at a special lecture at the Museum on July 11. “Non-violent, peaceful means are how you change hearts and minds.”

Although Munir and his family now enjoy relative safety and comfort, they cannot escape the continuing violence and tragedy in Iraq, which has claimed the lives as many as 123,000 civilians.

In July of 2011, Munir’s 19-year-old brother and his 15-year-old cousin were kidnapped and murdered by insurgents seeking revenge because of Munir’s alliance with the U.S. An uncle and other family members have also been killed in reprisal attacks.

From an early age, Munir acknowledges that he questioned the ideology of Saddam Hussein’s regime. His questioning of totalitarian authority landed him in prison for eight months when he was a teen boy of 13 and 14, a place where he was sexually assaulted.

At age 15, Munir said he gladly agreed to serve as a translator for the U.S. military and eventually as a soldier alongside Marines who taught him discipline, confidence and public speaking skills.

And, he said, he learned that forgiveness—not revenge—is the most effective means to stop violence, a lesson he learned from his exposure to and conversations with Christians, Muslims and Jews who had each suffered the loss of loved ones and went on to aid those who had suffered similar loss during the Iraqi conflict—regardless of the sufferers’ religious or other background.

Today, Munir works for a local lighting manufacturer while attending community college. He plans to attend Columbia University to complete his undergraduate degree. He speaks to civic and religious groups about his experiences in Iraq and about his beliefs that forgiveness and non-violence are the paths to sustainable peace.

One day soon, Munir said he hopes to establish a foundation in the U.S. that would fund educational and recreational programs for the youth of Iraq who are open and eager to hear his message of hope.

“I want to plant seeds that will bring forgiveness and peace in Iraq,” Munir said.

–By Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum; Photo by Paula Nourse

Hope for Humanity Dinner Set for October 30

Father Patrick Desbois

Father Patrick Desbois

Father Patrick Desbois, President of the Yahad-In Unum Association, will receive the Museum’s 2013 Hope for Humanity Award. Local Holocaust Survivors will also be recognized.

Fr. Desbois, who has devoted his life to confronting anti-Semitism and furthering Catholic-Jewish understanding, will be honored at the Museum’s Hope for Humanity Dinner on October 30 at the Dallas Fairmont Hotel, 1717 North Akard Street. The Hope for Humanity reception starts at 6 p.m. Dinner begins at 7 p.m.

Fr. Desbois has dedicated his life to preserving the memory of Ukraine’s former Jewish community and to advance understanding of the crimes committed during the Holocaust. To date, his organization has identified 800 of the estimated 2,000 sites of mass burial.

Tickets will be $350 (limited availability). Table prices begin at $3,500. For further information, please contact Development Director Maria MacMullin at 214-741-7500.

Sign of the Times: Museum’s New Herald Historically Proportioned

The new sign at the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

The Museum has installed a new sign on the Pacific Street/DART side of the building at 211 N. Record Street. The 16-foot long sign (and 16 inches tall) meets the exacting historical proportions required by Dallas city ordinances governing the West End Historic District. The sign, which uses high performance cast vinyl lettering, provides new and needed visibility for Museum visitors who park in adjacent parking lots. The sign took months of planning and one day to install.

July Events Promise to Enlighten and Embolden Museum Visitors

Rita Blitt

Rita Blitt

July 1:  Rita Blitt’s Reaching Out from Within: Stories of Perseverance 

Rita Blitt is an international, award winning painter, sculptor and filmmaker.

“When I create, I feel like I’m dancing on paper.” says Blitt about her passion for art. She began painting as a child and has lived a life filled with creativity and achievements.

Today, her paintings, drawings and sculptures have been featured in exhibitions in Singapore, Israel, Germany, Japan, Taiwan and Norway. She also has permanent exhibits in museums, galleries and public settings around the world.  She collaborated with other artists to create films including “Blur,” “Visual Rhythms” and “Caught in Paint,” which was shown at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.  Blitt also authored The Passionate Gesture and Reaching Out From Within.

Her work goes beyond the aesthetically pleasing to her efforts to make the world a better place. “Kindness is Contagious, Catch It!” is a poster Blitt created as a gift to the STOP Violence Coalition, but its world-wide popularity resulted in her presenting prints to every member nation of the United Nations. The Blitt family underwrites the Blitt Family Creative Arts Center at Synergy Services, a violence prevention and intervention center in Parkville, Mo.

Thirteen of Blitt’s colorful and dramatic pieces of sculpture and paintings, an exhibit entitled “Reaching Out from Within: Stories of Perseverance through Art,” will be on display at the Museum from July 1 through August 25, 2013.

July 11: Iraqi war translator Munir Captain

Join the Dallas Holocaust Museum on July 11 as Iraqi war translator Munir Captain shares his stories of despair, freedom and hope.

From 2003 to 2009, Munir Captain and his brother, Omar, served as translators to U.S. forces in their native Iraq.

New residents of North Texas, these brave men still have family in Baghdad, so their personal stories are not only current but relevant as family members in Iraq have faced reprisals for the brothers’ decisions to support American forces and their decision to live as refugees in the U.S.

The brothers bring interesting perspectives on the importance of the regime change in Iraq, the nature of the long insurgency there, the character of the American soldiers, the prospects for Iraq going forward and their own assimilation into American life.

Hear Murnir Captain speak at the Museum theater, 211 N. Record Street Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.

A Play for the Ages: The Timekeepers Demonstrates What it Means to be Human

Actors Karl Lewis (Benjamin) and Jeremy W. Smith (Hans) bring an often forgotten story of the Holocaust to the stage.

Actors Karl Lewis (Benjamin) and Jeremy W. Smith (Hans) bring an often forgotten story of the Holocaust to the stage.

What divides us as human beings should not be stronger than what unites us. Yet, history is filled with examples where differences, especially in matters of truth and justice, have produced tragic results.

Conflict over what we share in common—and who we are as individuals—well, this is the stuff of compelling stage drama. Make the setting a World War II concentration camp during the Holocaust, at a Holocaust Museum, and the drama is groundbreaking.

Such is the case with The Timekeepers, a limited-run play now at the Dallas Holocaust Museum Theater on select nights through June 22. The subject matter is strictly for adults. Tickets are available online.

Directed by veteran Texas artistic director Joe Watts, The Timekeepers tells the story of a young-ish German homosexual and a conservative elderly Jewish man who are forced to work together in a camp, repairing watches for the Nazis.

At first, inmate #70649, a character named Benjamin played by veteran Dallas actor Karl Lewis, who wears a yellow star on his camp uniform, won’t even speak to his new colleague. Hans, inmate #2202, whose pink upside down triangle brands his character, played by actor Jeremy W. Smith, a SAG member with television credits, takes the rejection in stride, as though accustomed to it.

Fomenting—and sometimes mediating—the relationship is Capo, a petty thief and camp inmate who oversees the watch repair shop, played by actor Eric Hanson, who makes his debut theatrical performance in the production.

Benjamin was a highly regarded watchmaker in Berlin prior to his deportation. He is expert at repairing watches that Nazi guards confiscated from new camp arrivals. Hans lied about his mechanical abilities—he knows nothing about repairing watches—to avoid certain death as a failed laborer in a camp cement plant.

As is often the case in life where obvious differences overshadow commonalities upon initial meetings, time and humor eventually washes away prejudice and indifference and the two men discover each has a passion for a shared interest: opera.

The two men become friends and even rehearse scenes from an opera that they will perform at a show for the Finnish branch of the Red Cross who will be visiting the camp in a few days.

However, when the show is suddenly cancelled, their common passion for opera instantly disappears and pride and prejudice overtakes each again and erupts in a raw, disturbing, enlightening and all too familiar scene from daily life even today.

To say more about the play by Dan Clancey would spoil an incredibly impactful production by Theatre New West.

In introducing the play, truly a first-of-its-kind production for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins noted how the Museum is committed to telling the stories of all Holocaust victims.

“Homosexuals are among the Holocaust’s forgotten victims,” she noted. “The Timekeepers, while fiction, is based on a larger story and it allows us to bring the ‘forgotten’ into the light.”

The play continues Fridays and Saturdays, June 14, 15, 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. Talk back sessions with the director and cast will occur after Friday night performances.

By Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

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